The power of paint: Instant gratification

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Going green: </span>Want to add a punch of color, but in an unexpected way? Try adding that color to the ceiling — and keeping the walls neutral.
Going green: Want to add a punch of color, but in an unexpected way? Try adding that color to the ceiling — and keeping the walls neutral.
Bob Greenspan / MCT

MCT News Service

Want some instant decorating gratification? Pop open a can of paint. Inside this little silver treasure box is the power to transform a room in a jiff. Dollar-for-dollar, there is no more cost-effective decorating tool, and with a few swipes of a brush in some strategic spots, you can give a room new life. Here are four fabulous spots to unleash the power of paint in your home:

•  Paint your ceiling. When I was growing up my mom made our kitchen groovy by hanging funky flower power wallpaper on our kitchen ceiling that was emblazoned with avocado and gold daisies.

While I’m not suggesting you turn your kitchen ceiling into a ’70s throwback, I do want to plant the idea that your ceiling is an often-overlooked but powerful place to add a jolt of color. Keeping the walls white calms the room, then — ka-pow! — a colorful ceiling gives it oodles of personality. (Tip for moms whose daughters want to paint their rooms an eye-searing shade of orange, green, pink or blue: compromise by painting the ceiling.)

Painted ceilings don’t have to be covered with high-contrast colors. When I visited Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West a few years ago, I was agog at the ceilings that were painted robin’s egg blue. They said it was to thwart wasps from building their nests. But I fell in love with the concept as a decorating tool. My kitchen and porch ceilings are both painted a light blue.

But I didn’t stop there, because you all know as well as I do that once you start painting things it’s hard to stop. Next I painted the ceiling of my twilight blue dining room khaki.

•  Paint your furniture. Are you a DIY fan? Do you spend every free second on Pinterest? Then you know how much fun it is to give tired furniture a brand new look. If you have a vintage or antique piece of furniture that is just not calling your name anymore, give it a new lease on life with a coat of paint.

My friend Anne protected her wooden coffee table with paint so it could weather the elements on her covered patio. Ask the folks at your paint store for recommendations on procedures and products for the best results.

Hate to paint? Buy a piece of painted furniture. And painted furniture doesn’t have to be funky. It also can be so, so sophisticated.

•  Paint your walls. If you want to give a room a complete personality change, cover the walls in a vibrant new color. Julie infused her kitchen with lots of energy when she painted it Shuttered Window, a go-with-anything emerald green from my Mary Carol Artisan Paint line. Love it!

Paint also can make a room moody and dramatic. My friend Anne’s dining room is painted a warm, wonderful gray. I like dining rooms that are painted deep colors.

The walls don’t always have to be the star of the show. In Beth’s home, the focal point is the furnishings. So she painted her walls a light cream, which provide a warm backdrop for the room’s stunning architecture, artwork and furnishings.

•  Paint a door. This is my new thing: Painting doors a deep, rich, shiny black. A few years ago, when I was staying at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago, I was swept away by the sophisticated look of the grand-piano-black guestroom doors against the creamy white trim. I came home and started painting all the doors in my home black.

This high-contrast effect turns doors into focal points. If black isn’t your thing, how about taupe or a muted light green, like you see in many historical homes?

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at She can be emailed at

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